Preston’s youngest councillor is demanding answers about the future of the city’s night-time economy after police shut down a popular bar.
Conservative chairman Daniel Dewhurst, 20, was due to raise concerns at today’s full council meeting amid fears that last month’s court ruling to close Macs Bar set a precedent which could leave other venues facing closure in a legal crackdown.
Questions need to be answered by the relevant cabinet members over this whole issue
“Questions need to be answered by the relevant cabinet members over this whole issue,” said Coun Dewhurst. “If Macs Bar can be shut down because of what happens in the street outside, then so too can other bars and clubs in the city centre. Preston’s nightlife could be decimated.”
A district judge granted a police application for a three-month closure order on the busy Friargate nightspot after claims its staff failed to control customers outside the venue. It is believed the owners are now planning to appeal.
Police will also oppose the bar’s licence when it comes up for review before councillors in 11 days time, alleging incidents of under-age drinking, excessive drinking and overcrowding. The city’s licensing sub-committee will also hear evidence that in the eight months between September 2014 and April 2015 eight people attended A&E after being assaulted - six of them outside the venue and two inside.
Coun Dewhurst said: “The court has set the benchmark so low with this case that most venues in the city centre will be subject to unrealistic expectations. By targeting a business with a low level of disturbances, those worse will also be subject to closure.
“This must be a very worrying time for owners of venues if the police can bypass the licensing authority and go straight to court to close them.
“We are being undermined and that’s very concerning, especially if our council leaders have been complicit in this. It appears they are avoiding the issue and hoping it disappears. But it will only get worse.
“Why would the police go to such extreme lengths to close a bar down when this could have been solved with simple remedies like a change in opening hours and more door staff? We’re in danger of scaring off investment and panicking business owners into decisions we wouldn’t want them to make.”